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Whether it’s celebrities talking about their practice or your best friend touting it, many people are turning to meditation to reduce stress, calm the mind, and cultivate a sense of calm in a chaotic world.

There are different types of meditation, but whatever form you choose, the benefits abound. Some benefits of meditation include:

  • lengthened attention span
  • reduced age-related memory loss

A 2019 study showed that participants who meditated for 15 minutes were less stressed than those who went on one day of vacation.

Meditation and mindfulness can also help ease the anxieties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2020 study. The study said: “Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that change is the only constant. Meditation and mindfulness can offer a helpful way to live with this constant change.”

Meditation is a practice that aims at focusing the mind and training awareness. Although there’s not a single type of meditation, the goal is the same across the board: to achieve a calmer state of mind.

There’s a misconception that the point of meditation is to completely clear the mind, but this is an impossible task. The goal is to bring awareness to and redirect your thoughts, not to get rid of them completely.

Meditation originated in ancient India thousands of years ago and then moved through China and Japan before making its way west in the 18th century. Now, the practice is a foundational part of Buddhism and has become widely practiced across the globe.

One of the most sought-after benefits of meditation is stress reduction. The practice has been shown to help alleviate stress, lower anxiety, and combat inflammation that can come with chronically high stress hormones.

In addition to helping manage stress levels, meditation can:

  • lead to a more positive outlook on life
  • boost self-image
  • cultivate self-awareness
  • improve attention span
  • fight off age-related memory loss
  • increase compassion toward yourself and others
  • improve sleep
  • decrease blood pressure
  • alleviate chronic pain

If you’re new to meditation or curious about it, picking up a book is a great starting point. There’s a wide breadth of knowledge that falls under meditation, and books are a practical way to explore and better understand the practice.

Reader reviews were used in choosing the following books. If an expert is regarded in the field, that was taken into consideration.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Best for beginners

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

  • Price: $$$
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 stars

This bestseller has several accolades, including best book of 2020 mentions by NPR and The Washington Post. It also has tens of thousands of positive reviews online.

Reviewers like the book’s fast and fun pace. Others point out that it reads like a novel. While this book isn’t strictly about meditation, it explores the importance of our breath and lung capacity, and it gives the reader different breathing exercises to try.

This book is for those curious about breathing and its impact on the body, both mentally and physically.

Pros

  • good for those curious about science topics
  • details meditation practice
  • features breathing exercises

Cons

  • high level view of meditation
  • not only about meditation
  • you may find information redundant if you have experience with meditation

Best for transcendental meditation

Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation

  • Price: $$$
  • Amazon rating: 4 stars

If you’re not familiar with transcendental meditation (TM), it’s a practice that requires quiet and stillness for 20 minutes, twice per day, while a mantra is recited.

The technique was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi over 50 years ago and has touched the lives of more than 6 million people globally. It can only be taught by certified TM teachers in a course carefully personalized for each individual.

The author of this book, Bob Roth, is a transcendental meditation teacher and bestselling author. He’s also the CEO of The David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that addresses the trauma and toxic stress among at-risk populations through the implementation of transcendental meditation.

This book is more of an introductory text if you’re seeking to understand the technique.

Pros

  • author is one of the most renowned teachers of TM
  • reviewers note engaging writing
  • technique is one of the most practiced in the world

Cons

  • not a manual for learning specifics of the technique
  • time commitment
  • learning TM at a certified center can be expensive

Best for guided meditations

Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life

  • Price: $$
  • Amazon rating: 4.7 stars

This is a book you can keep at the ready on your bedside table or coffee table in case you have some spare moments for a guided meditation. There are 52 guided practices in the book on a range of topics, from being a people pleaser to making health a priority.

One reviewer says this book is excellent for people who need structural help with their practice.

The author, Agapi Stassinopoulos, is a bestselling author with a master’s degree in psychology. She’s also the sister of Arianna Huffington and provides workshops at Thrive Global.

Pros

  • 52 guided meditations mean one every week of the year
  • guided meditations are effective for those who need structural help
  • audiobook is available if you prefer

Cons

  • guided meditation might not be for you
  • not the best book for advanced practitioners
  • some topics might not resonate

Best for Zen and Buddhist meditation

The Three Pillars of Zen

  • Price: $$
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 stars

Zen meditation has roots in Buddhist philosophy. Known as Zazen, the technique is all about focusing inward, sometimes focusing on the breath, and other times clearing the mind of any thoughts. Practitioners often sit in the lotus position while meditating.

This book is written by Roshi Philip Kapleau, the founder of the Rochester Zen Center, one of the oldest and most influential American institutions in its specialty.

The book gives an overview of the three pillars of Zen: teaching, practicing, and enlightenment. This book was originally published in 1989, but an updated version came out in 2013.

“If you fall into poverty, live that way without grumbling — then, your poverty will not burden you,” Kapleau wrote in the book. “Likewise, if you are rich, live with your riches. All this is the functioning of Buddha-nature. In short, Buddha-nature has the quality of infinite adaptability.”

Pros

  • written by a leading expert on Zen
  • relevant more than 30 years after publication
  • features advice for practice and history

Cons

  • focuses only on Zen technique
  • traditional perspective on Zazen
  • some reviewers find it hard to read

Best for meditation through coloring

The Art of Mandala

  • Price: $
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 stars

Mandalas are geometric configurations of shapes meant to signify a spiritual journey and are recommended to help you relax. This book has 50 unique mandalas for any skill level.

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of coloring or adult coloring as it’s sometimes called. Truth is: Coloring has a calming effect at any age.

Research from 2018 reported that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed reduced anxiety after coloring mandalas compared with free-drawing.

The mandala designs get more complex as you complete the book. Colored pencils are suggested for best results.

Pros

  • intricate designs
  • gets more difficult as you progress
  • accessible for any age

Cons

  • coloring might not be your jam
  • some reviewers say they get tired of coloring after a while
  • book and coloring supplies might not be as portable as other meditation books

Best book for wisdom

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

  • Price: $$$
  • Amazon rating: 4.8 stars

This bestseller features two Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.

Looking back on their long lives, the two recounted what they saw relevant to a central question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? The result is this book.

Readers get a window into these two’s debate about the nature of true joy. They talk fear, stress, anger, grief, illness, and death. They include personal stories throughout the book, offer wisdom, and share their beliefs on science.

Pros

  • historical conversation between two celebrated figures in the world
  • reviewers say it’s well written
  • features advice on overcoming tragedy and how to reframe thinking

Cons

  • some reviewers don’t like the presentation
  • some reviewers find it boring
  • not strictly focused on meditation practice

Best for kids

This Moment Is Your Life (and So Is This One): A Fun and Easy Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga

  • Price: $$
  • Amazon rating: 4.5 stars

It’s never too early to teach kids tools for managing stress and anxiety. This guidebook is packed with simple exercises in full-color artwork to give kids an introduction to meditation and mindfulness.

There are chapters on meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing, along with the benefits of these practices. The book includes quick exercises and a tool kit at the end of each chapter. The book is best for ages 10 and older.

The book’s author, Mariam Gates, has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and has been teaching children for over 20 years. She’s the founder of Kid Power Yoga, and she trains children and adults in yoga and mindfulness.

Pros

  • colorful drawings to engage children
  • offers tips and practical ways to introduce mindfulness into a child’s daily life
  • includes yoga poses for kids

Cons

  • some reviews say the book is better for younger kids
  • high level overview of topic
  • expensive for a children’s book

Best for short meditations

The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness

  • Price: $$
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 stars

If you don’t think you have time for meditation, this book is for you. Written by Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert, former Buddhist monk, and the voice of the guided meditations in the Headspace app, it sets out to prove that you can change how you feel in as little as 10 minutes per day.

Puddicombe provides background on meditation along with easy-to-incorporate meditation techniques, mixing in humorous personal anecdotes with science-backed information. He also explains how the Headspace app can serve as a companion to the book.

The meditations and information in the book are designed to help with all areas of mental and physical health, from stress and anxiety relief to improved focus and better sleep.

Pros

  • makes meditation accessible to even the busiest people
  • appropriate for all experience levels
  • provides actionable steps as well as detailed explanations

Cons

  • more suitable for beginners
  • some reviewers say there are too many personal anecdotes
  • some reviewers say it references using the app more than they would like

Best for intermediate or experienced meditators

Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life

  • Price: $$
  • Amazon rating: 4.7 stars

Deepak Chopra is a name that’s become synonymous with meditation. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and licensed physician who studied internal medicine in India, the birthplace of meditation, before emigrating to the United States.

While Chopra has many beginner-focused teachings, this book is specifically for those who have mastered basic meditation and are looking to reach new levels of awareness and consciousness.

The book starts with information on meditation, discussing why it’s beneficial to take your practice to the next level. It then moves into a handful of simple exercises you can do, a 7-day meditation course, and 52 mantras you can incorporate into your practice.

Pros

  • teaches meditation philosophy
  • provides actionable steps and a meditation plan
  • reviewers say it helped them reach a deeper level of meditation and awareness

Cons

  • not beginner-friendly
  • some reviewers say there are many unnecessary details
  • meditation advice could be too general depending on your meditation experience

BooksPriceWho it’s best forHighlights
Breath: The New Silence of a Lost Art$$$beginners interested in science– good for people curious about science
– features breathing exercises
Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation$$$people interested in transcendental meditation– author is renowned teacher of TM
– technique is one of the most practiced in the world
Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life$$people looking for guided meditation– guided meditation for each week of the year
– audiobook available
The Three Pillars of Zen$$anyone interested in Zen and Buddhist meditation– written by a leading Zen expert
– features advice for practice and history
The Art of Mandala$people looking for something different or creative– great for people who love to color or create
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World$$$people wanting advice from experts– dialogue between two world figures
– advice to overcome tragedy and reframe thinking
This Moment Is Your Life (and So Is This One): A Fun and Easy Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga$$kids– colorful, engaging drawings
– tips to regularly introduce mindfulness to kids
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness$$anyone on a time crunch– makes meditation accessible to busy people
– appropriate for all experience levels
Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life$$$experienced meditators– provides actionable steps and plan
– helps reach a deeper level of awareness

When thinking about which meditation book to buy, consider what you’re hoping to get out of it, what interests you, and how much time you have to dedicate to learning and practicing. You can also look over reviews from other readers.

Some books are geared toward beginners, while others are for advanced practitioners. There are also some options that contain more theory than practical exercises, so it’s important to consider what you’re exactly looking for prior to shopping.

In addition, some books include expert commentary or tips and ideas from specific meditation techniques, like TM.

What type of meditation is best?

There are nine types of meditation, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which type is best. It depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Mindfulness meditation is excellent for reducing stress and improving focus and attention, and it’s especially helpful for beginners since it’s a simple practice.

Movement meditation is great for improving body awareness, while loving-kindness meditation is a vital tool for developing compassion and acceptance for yourself and others.

If you’re just starting out with your meditation practice, it can be helpful to try the different types of meditation to see which ones resonate with you. They may all benefit you in different ways.

What is the ideal time to meditate?

There are different opinions on the best time to meditate. Some say right when you wake up, while others think it’s best to meditate a few hours before sunrise when the world is still and the sun is at a 60-degree angle to the earth.

It can also be beneficial to meditate in sync with your circadian rhythm, which could mean as soon as you wake up or between 2 and 3 p.m. when you normally feel that afternoon slump.

Just like there’s no best type of meditation for everyone, there’s no ideal time to meditate for everyone either. The best time is whenever you can fit some uninterrupted, quiet time into your day.

Can you meditate in bed?

You can meditate in any position: sitting, standing, lying down, or walking. The goal is to find a quiet place where you can relax. If that’s your bed, that’s perfectly fine — just make you don’t get too drowsy and fall asleep.

Meditation is a tool for anyone.

There are many books on the matter — so many that you may be overwhelmed when searching for the right fit.

Depending on what you’re looking for, one of these books — written by experts in their field — may be beneficial to your meditation and mindfulness practice.


Tracee Herbaugh is a writer and journalist who lives in the Boston area. She writes about culture, lifestyle, health, and family relationships. You can view her work online or find her on Twitter.